The Nike Air Jordans remain on display. Neatly folded shirts in plastic wrap sit on the shelf. Unworn hats are placed on the wall.
But the friendly face behind the counter at Pop’s Hood Rich who customers say helped them out on clothing prices at Christmas and back-to-school time is gone.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detectives continue to investigate the slaying of the store’s owner, 64-year-old Raymond “Pop” Montgomery.
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“The stories are ongoing. When someone opens the door, the first thing they ask is, ‘Where’s Pops?’ ” said Jeff Montgomery, Montgomery’s cousin, who was working at the store this week.
Pop Montgomery was found dead in the back yard of his residence in the 7200 block of Manatee Street by family members at about 1:30 p.m. June 24.
The sheriff’s office announced the homicide investigation Friday, although investigators said they were treating it as such from the beginning.
“We did get some indication this man had medical problems,” said Sgt. Peter Rampone. “We believe a criminal event precipitated his demise.”
Montgomery’s home was ransacked and he had been tied up, managing to free himself, before collapsing in the back yard and reportedly died of a heart attack, family members confirmed.
Toxicology reports are still pending at the Medical Examiner’s Office, according to authorities.
“He was a very giving, a very loving person. He would give you the shirt off his back,” Jeff Montgomery said.
Detectives and relatives believe it was possible an acquaintance robbed Montgomery knowing he carried cash from his store.
“It’s beyond my ability to comprehend. I think they were trying to rob him. I have no idea,” Jeff Montgomery said.
This wasn’t the first time Pop Montgomery was a victim of a crime.
Just two years ago, four men wearing masks invaded his home and held him up a gunpoint. He was kidnapped and taken to the store where he was robbed, according to authorities.
An arrest was never made.
One friend said, “He probably should have carried a gun, but he was too scared to use it.”
Pop Montgomery left his business at about 10:15 p.m. June 23 and drove his bronze four-door Kia to drop an employee off after work, Rampone said.
Nearby residents said they heard what sounded like drawers being pulled out and sifted through at Montgomery’s residence late on June 23.
His vehicle was found at 10 a.m. June 24 in the 700 block of Winter Garden Drive.
On June 25, someone smashed out a back window at the store.
Pop’s Hood Rich had humble beginnings in Bradenton.
Pop Montgomery, who also worked in retail in Atlanta before moving back to the area, initially sold clothing out of a stocked van.
Cookie Jones, 29, still remembers meeting him near Food Land off Ninth Street East. She became a loyal customer following him to his first local store location on 15th Street East.
About three years ago, the shop opened its doors at another location, 1427 57th Avenue East, in a bright blue cement block building with a mural of stick people standing on skyscrapers.
“He was a good man. He was real sweet. If you didn’t have enough money, he would give you something any way. He always did that. That was the best part about him,” Jones said. “That’s why it was called the ‘Hood’ store. He had name brand clothes at reasonable prices so we didn’t have to bend over backwards to look good. ... They always had something special going on in his store.”
Jeff Montgomery said his cousin’s life was the store. Family members, meanwhile, have decided to keep its doors open.
“He lived, breathed and slept this every day. Every day, this is all he did,” Jeff Montgomery said. “He had no life insurance. We buried him on the sweat of this store.”
Anyone with any information about Montgomery’s slaying can contact sheriff’s office Detective John Kenney at 747-3011, ext. 2216, or remain anonymous and possibly become eligible for cash reward by calling Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS (8477).